My first book of the 2011 summer break is Radical by David Platt. This book has been on my radar for just over a year. My wife checked it out from the library and I quickly absconded it–she had two other library books to choose from, so I wasn’t being that bad of a guy. I’ve heard that Radical is an eye-opening, convicting book. I have to admit that sometimes I’m skeptical of “live the radical lives Christ intended you to live” books because many of them (Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus being one) take the stance that if you aren’t going to the jungle, or starting a church, or running an organization then you aren’t effectively living out your Christian faith. It seems as if many of these authors would criticize me for teaching at a low-risk, rich-white-kid school.
It didn’t take long to notice that Platt’s stance was similar, but much different. Of everything I’ve read, Platt does the best job of explaining why we as Christians need to reach into every corner of the earth, build relationships, and share the life-changing gospel of Christ. He deals with the question, “How could God send someone to hell if they’ve never been told about Christ, or had an opportunity to accept it or reject it?” As part of his argument, Platt explains that, under the premise of this question, salvation could come from simply ignoring the gospel, from running every time you heard the name of Jesus. Platt challenges the church to go abroad, out of our comfort zone and build relationships in outside of our context. What I appreciate about Platt is he doesn’t lose sight of the local for the sake of the global. Platt asserts that all are important, and that we should try to spend 2% of our time trying to go somewhere outside of our regular context. Platt acknowledges the importance of loving our neighbors, but also communicates urgency in bringing the gospel in places that have never heard it (an estimated 4.5 billion people!!). 2% of our time comes out to one week. 7 days a year. Platt challenges us to start small and see what passions God lays on our hearts.
Where does a husband, father of two young boys, and a teacher-poet fit into this gospel-sharing paradigm? How can I take my passions and interests into my city, my state, my country, my world? I don’t know. Our church sends regularly sends people to a tribe in the amazon. There also may be some opportunities through our church to go to China. I have a dream of helping/teaching artists what it means to be a Christian artist, someone I’m still trying to figure out how to be. (Platt suggests the best way to learn something is to teach it. Duh. I should know this. I’ve learned more about literature since becoming an English teacher than I ever did in school.) I dream of being able to use my writing to encourage, teach, train, and challenge those who read it. Platt talks about using our lives to show people the glory of God. Where do I start? Maybe I already have (though it doesn’t feel like it), so where do I continue? What small things can I be doing now to put myself in a position to face more challenges?
Platt has helped me realize that as husband, father, teacher, writer, etc. I can do nothing on my own to change the world. But the power of Christ can change the world through me. That’s a big deal. Every time I submit a poem for publication, I pray that God allows himself to be revealed through my work, that someone somewhere will be moved/challenged by it. Over the past year I’ve had a handful of poems published. I have no idea who has read my work, or who even reads this blog. But that’s the first step. Writing. Submitting. Praying. Publishing. Where will all this lead? I have no idea. But I’m excited to see where it leads.
I know a lot of people who are critical of the Christian church in America. I’ve been critical of the Church and my fellow Christians. I’m guilty of being a consumer instead of a producer. Platt offers some great advice actually be more like Jesus instead of the American Dream driven consumerism found in many churches across the United States. Platt challenges us to focus less on the American Dream, and more on sharing our lives with those around us. He challenges us to spend less money on ourselves and more on those who are scraping by on less then a dollar a day.
What kind of world can we have if we spend less time legalistically pointing fingers, less time worrying about retirement, less time worrying about our house being up to par with the standards of our neighbors? I’m not quite sure, but I have a feeling I’m going to find out.